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Control – A Massive Bullwall of Bear… stuff that happen in the Woods

May 13, 2011

Dear Reader,

Well, to be honest, it should read “Dear Gevlon,” but I didn’t want to alienate every single other person who reads this blog (all 4 or 5 of you, and I’m not saying Gevlon does; I don’t know).  Also, I want to be clear that I strongly considered writing this about “a hypothetical blogger,” but I didn’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence.  I wanted to be honest and direct, and, honestly and directly, Gevlon is the muse who inspired this post.

Today’s correspondence is about controlling things, primarily image and message.  It is not about being nicer or more caring.  It’s not about calling off Gevlon’s attacks or trying to change his mind (or anyone’s).  No, quite the opposite, in fact.  This is about being better about controlling your image and your message, which I’m directing towards Gevlon’s advances because he works so hard and has so many good ideas that I hate to see them ignored, dismissed, and otherwise dashed by his own loss of control.

When I first started reading Gevlon’s posts (which was only a few months ago), I found him to be arrogant, dismissive, and absurd.  Now, I have no doubt that some people have, at times, found me to be exactly the same.  I try very hard, though, to maintain image and message control, though, whereas Gevlon does not.

Over time, I started to really like Gevlon.  He reminded me of an old raider in a long-ago guild of mine, Baeton, to whom I once said over vent, “You, sir, are a tyrant.”  The whole raid laughed as if I was teasing him, and perhaps I was, but in addition to the teasing, I was complimenting him.  He was the only person in my gigantic guild who was able to successfully lead an Amani Bear run, due to his tyranny.  While he grated my nerves from time to time (we still joke about him once saying “There should be no paladin buffs” until he arrived at the instance.  We had been clearing the first trash packs, but apparently had disobeyed him by deciding buffs on our own.  I loved this guy), he got results.

Gevlon’s success with The PuG has been really extraordinary, as I’ve mentioned in many comments to his posts.  He earned a lot of respect from a lot of the community just for coming up with such a unique idea, being ballsy enough to execute it, sticking with it during the difficult formative stage, and being rewarded so greatly for his work.  No matter what is said as a result of this post or in the unrelated future, I will always respect Gevlon for that work.

The point of this letter, dear reader, is that so many of us are our own worst enemies.  I may be proving this right now, in fact, since I’ve been very careful to stay neutral in blog fights, find commonalities between the differing sides, and advocate reason and moderation in response, and of all people to call to the floor, I’ve chosen one that I have no doubt has a vicious bite which is likely to infect the wound, in fact, and perhaps kill our conversation, dear reader.  However, I’ve become tired of seeing someone who has so many good ideas shoot themselves in the foot over and over, and I’m hoping for, at least, leniency for good intentions, though of course we know which road is paved with them.

I’ve heard about some past time in Gevlon’s career, when he was “talking about glyphs.”  That was before my time, and if anyone would care to illuminate this reference, Id’ appreciate it.

So yes, those of you who have weak stomachs or wish to continue to think of me as a wholly “good” person (though I have no idea how you may have formed that image) may want to seal the envelope up now and deposit it in the trash.  You see, I work hard to be neutral and nice because it comes so easily to me to be manipulative.  I am, after all, a teacher, and a damn good one  (humble, too, apparently).  So here the claws come out; not to fight with Gevlon, no, but to dig in and try to support him while the tide of his own words sometimes threatens to carry him out to sea.

Hopefully people other than Gevlon can learn something from this, and hopefully Gevlon can, too, and won’t simply be angry about this all.

Image Control

Gevlon is great at giving people an opportunity to attack him.  By choosing outlandish metaphors, attacking unprovoked, and appearing extremely arrogant in his posts, he opens door after door for people to launch attacks against his ideas.  Controlling your image is about reducing the possibility of attack.  When someone compares their opponent to, say, Hitler, they do nothing for their argument but lose people who can spot a foolish comparison.  What they accomplish, in fact, is to incite the emotions of readers either strongly for or strongly against them.  The problem is that those who are for them probably were before the comparison, but the ones who are against the comparison might have been on the fence ahead of time but are now lost.

If, instead, Gevlon approached with less figurative language, sticking either to extremely neat metaphors or avoiding them altogether (they do little but show that you can’t actually explain similarities but instead need to make comparisons to prove your point), then no one could attack him on that front.  If he solely worded his posts in ways that were about “helping” other people instead of being insulting and tearing them down, he’d provoke a lot less counter-attacks, which only serve to distract from the point.  If he showed a little humility, self-deprecating humor, or seemed to take himself a little less seriously, it would vastly improve people’s opinion of him.

Now the point of this is not to win a popularity contest.  It’s to win the contest of ideas.  If you truly want to spread a message (we’ll get to message control in a second), then you want to win over the hearts and minds (as the phrase goes) of your readers.  By alienating people who are mild-mannered, who dislike rhetoric, and who are interested in being allowed to make their own minds up instead of being called a moron if they don’t agree, Gevlon loses a lot of his potential readership.  If you really want to get people behind you, be appealing; don’t count on your success, cold logic, and hard truths.  You can tell the truth and still be likable, though it takes more work.

Message Control

Gevlon is better about message control than image control, but more improvement could be made.  Recently, he posted a guide on finding a good guild on his server which is one of the best things I’ve ever seen him do.  It served both to improve his image, deliver his message, and exert control over the conversation.  People who came into the channel to attack him were quickly overruled by experienced PuG members articulating the realities of the guild (from their point of view, of course) to counter the M’s&S’s that were simply sabotaging his post.  It was an excellent move in control.

Then he went and posted in their guild forum.  I’m not sure what the timing was between the two; if he did one after the other, that at least would explain how he could make such a mistake without realizing the repercussions.  Immediately, the members of his opposition guild swarmed in and made a fool of him.  Then, his message was deleted by an administrator (who did his job very poorly, I might add).  What’s left are snippets, taken out of context in some cases, and emotional responses defending the guild and making Gevlon look like a bad guy, attacking a small group of friendly gamers for no reason beyond meanness.   He has no recourse here.  If he jumps back into the forum to defend his ideas, he risks getting a ban from Blizzard.  He also looks more like a troll continuing to stir the pot.  He lost control of his message.

The point of this is forums are terrible for message control.  Though I just said metaphors were bad, I’m going to use one (because, as you see, I’m a hypocrite – see how attacking myself helps preserve my image by lightening the mood?)  “Feathers in the Wind.”  Once you put something out on the Internet, it’s out of your control.  If it’s not your own site, you’re taking a huge risk putting yourself out there.  On Greedy Goblin, Gevlon can control his message quite literally by being selective about what’s published, both by himself and by commentators.  On any other site, he cannot.  Putting his message in the hands of Blizz administrators to be subjected and retaliated against by the very M’s&S’s he wants to avoid is extremely counterproductive, as many commentators pointed out.

There was little else he could do, as trying to directly interfere with their recruiting online would be nearly impossible, needing both to be in a city to see any recruitment messages and needing the opposition guild to actually be able to type a coherent message and post it, both of which are totally out of his control.  What, then, is the best strategy?

I’ve learned over years of teaching that the best strategy in a lot of these cases is to try to correct the behavior, then give the person enough rope to hang themselves with.  Students who are having a bad day, who are upset about something completely unrelated to class, aren’t going to be a problem long enough to “get hung.”  Students who genuinely don’t know better, who’ve had lax teachers or parents but can understand the rules of socialization, will improve.  Only the true jerks, the true M’s&S’s will keep doing what they’re doing and end up hanging themselves.  It’s a beautiful act of passive resistance.  You don’t have to fight, you see, because morons and slackers will always destroy themselves.  To be clear, I love teaching and support all of my students all the time.  I’ve been doing it long enough to know that you can’t save people, you can only give the what they need to save themselves.

At some level, that may be what this whole letter is about.  It may be an attempt to see if Gevlon really just doesn’t care, in which case why should I, or if perhaps he’s just not that good at presenting himself and his message.  Hopefully, though, there’s some advice here that’s good for WoW and how you present yourself in game, for bloggers and how to present yourself in your writing, and for real life and how… you get the point.

Some of you may come and tell me that “that’s just Gevlon.”  It may be; I’m very new to all this.  However, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart, and might have posted this even if I had been around for years and had formed a similar opinion of him.  I don’t know.  He just seems so smart and creative to be so bad at control.

And Gev, if you’re upset by this (I truly think and hope you won’t be, but if I’m wrong), remember that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (/gulp /close eyes /wait and see)

A fantastic P.S. Today!

I wrote Gevlon an email to let him know I was putting this post up, as I was taught that was the polite thing to do.  He responded and said I could post his response here to add to our discussion.  His point about being successful regardless of the loss of image control is quite interesting and adds a level to the conversation: can destruction be an act of creation?

Here it is:

[In regards to] Image: If someone reject my ideas not because he found the idea bad but me a “jerk”, then he is a moron and I can’t care less about him.

[In regards to] The recruitment: The prospective recruits of that guild are NOT prospective recruits of my guild. I did not want them deter from “Bad mana” to come to me, but to go to a harmless social guild that doesn’t cause me troubles. If their impression is “Bad mana is bad, Gevlon is much worse”, I reached my goal. And Bad mana looks pretty bad after 5 pages of back and forth hate and tolling. After 1 or 2 pages the reader won’t know who is bad, but won’t even care. There are enough “nice and friendly” guilds out there without drama!

Thanks, Gev, for being a good sport about it all.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2011 2:26 pm

    The thing is, sometimes being a perfectly coded bunny doesn’t get you the results you want. If you want an influx of scathing commentary and the constant back and forth then you almost have to be over the top to get the ball rolling. Personally, I’d find that kind of environment horribly frustrating, but if I had the patience for it, I’d be more controversial just to provoke more interaction.

    • May 13, 2011 3:41 pm

      I wonder though if that doesn’t do as much harm as good in that you attract people who probably aren’t going to add very much to the dialogue and will either respond very positively or negatively from an entirely emotional standpoint. You do say “if that’s what you’re looking for,” so I suppose that sort of works itself out, but I wonder what can be done to improve intelligent discussion without having to be “over the top.”

      I don’t think I want to be a Howard Stern, but I also don’t want to be as much of a snooze as, well, I don’t know what reference to make here since it would be a boring one that probably no one would know. Where, then, is the happy medium?

      Thanks for the thoughts!

  2. May 13, 2011 4:11 pm

    Don’t know what blog you read, but the Gevlon I’s familiar with didn’t lose control of his message at all. Going inta some other bugger’s space, doin’ his best fer ta bully him, make a lotta noise, and then claim ta be the innocent victim defendin’ his own space is the message. Is the core of objectivism, and the little green dude learned it at Ayn Rand’s teat.

    Gevlon’s always been interestified in numbers, and there be far more glubbernuckers what wanta follow a successful bully than there is folks what be interested in a rational idea exchangification. If ya believes yer right, and ya don’t let them pesky facts get in yer way, then ya don’t gotta worries about persuadin’ thems what can think fer theyselves – you just know if ya makes enough noise, then they will join yer tribe inevitablies.

    • May 17, 2011 2:23 pm

      Yes, success is certainly a powerful aphrodisiac, and Gev’s been wonderfully successful recently. I think that’s why I find his constant mini self-destructions so affronting; someone with his success should be using it to propel the success further, not making a trade off between “If they think I’m bad, but the other guild is bad, too, then that’s fine with me.” Well, sure, but what about all the other ideas he has? Now those are being wasted…

      Nice post. How on earth do you stay in character so well?

  3. May 15, 2011 5:59 am

    Enjoyable post.

    Took it on-board myself 🙂

    – Jamin

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